Archive for category review
Lucidity is a game that came out of, from what I understand, was a company-wide LucasArts game jam, once again proving that game jams may very well be the best way ever to come up with awesome games.
Lucidity made me love LucasArts again. It’s a sweet, subtle game about grief, denial, fear and a whole other host of other emotions games won’t usually touch with a ten-foot pole. (I’m obviously talking about a different kind of fear here than “Oh-god-is-there-a-monster-around-that-corner-who-will-mutilate-who-first?!?” kind of fear.) This theme is handled in such an interesting way, and with such charm and sensitivity, that every once in a while I would have to pause the game just to scratch my head and wonder if this had really come from such a huge, IP-driven studio. It’s on both XBox Live and Steam for $10 and is well worth it, even beyond using your dollars to encourage LucasArts to stop beating Star Wars to death.
The protagonist is a little girl named Sofi, who, in the spirit of many older, awesome games, moves in a linear path. She will climb over ledges shorter than her, but other than that it is entirely up to you to place objects such as stairs, springs, fans, etc. in her path to direct it and keep her safe from monsters, plants, and simply falling to her death. The levels are also pretty straightforward: get Sofi from point A, the start of the level, to point B, a mailbox containing a postcard (beautifully watercolored, I might add) from her Nana.
This all makes it sound like a really straightforward, linear game, right? WRONG, suckers! Lucidity is one of the most cleverly designed, visually lush, replayable games I’ve had the pleasure of playing in, well… I dunno. Long enough that I don’t remember. The levels are huge, with as much (sometimes more) vertical space than horizontal. Fireflies, which you collect to bolster your resistance to monsters and other terrors as well as to unlock hidden levels. The basic levels are anything but linear, and in almost every case require to you play (well) at least two or three times to collect all the fireflies, but it works. The pieces you receive to help Sofi are randomly generated, and this, combined with the need to explored the full level for all the fireflies, ensures that neither your intended path nor the one you wind up actually taking will ever be the same as a previous play through. The controls are simply point-and-click to place (although a little sticky, which leads to unnecessary stress, flailing, and often death), but once you get the hang of the game you can set up incredibly awesome combos to guide Sofi over Giant Pits of Death and into Huge Swarms of Fireflies. The bonus levels serve, in many ways, as a break from the story levels, and explore designs that didn’t make it into the main story. The story levels are incredibly fun, don’t get me wrong, but the bonus levels are so varied and tricky that they’re really a treat to play.
Oh yes, I should probably mention: cute graphics and touching story aside, this is a damn hard game. It’s tough to master and insane to complete (I’ve only finished the story mode), and the entire thing is so well-designed that it stays challenging the entire way through without giving you a moment of downtime (even dying sends you straight back to the beginning of the level without pausing for more than a half-second wail from Sofi). While I think this works with the theme and is great for the gameplay, I do wish that maybe there had been a tiny bit more lenience. Something like the white bugs from World of Goo, to let you hop back a certain number of seconds or a single placed object, or something like that, would have spared me a lot of accidental deaths. Especially when the mouse decided to go AWOL, which more often than not was the reason Sofi would fall to some horrible death (the monsters were usually my fault).
The game in split into three acts, entitled Wonder, Fear, and Courage, each dealing with different stages of grief. The entire story is told through little diary excerpts from Sofi and the postcards from her Nana, which are presented at the beginning and end of each level. It serves to flesh out the story as well as Sofi’s journey and her relationship with her grandmother. The only other storytelling is done through four very brief cutscenes with no dialogue at all,one at the beginning and another at the end of each act.
In the initial act, Sofi simply wanders through dreamlands based off of her Nana’s farm, and you guide her around monsters, barbed wire and other such nasties. The levels are pretty introductory and give you a decent taste of how to move through the world, along with introducing all of the tools at your disposal.
The second act introduces a concept of overwhelming fear (surprise!), simply represented by a dark cloud that follows Sofi through a series of levels ranging from underwater, subterranean and frozen landscapes. Allow her to get enveloped in the cloud and she will die just like she would from any other monster, but it takes a while to swallow her up even once it’s caught up.
The third act replaces this cloud of fear with a school of skeletal while fish chasing after Sofi, this time more literally death (and an unpleasant one at that), and the hostile, monster-ridden environments from before with a small number of night sky backdrops.
The ending, without spoiling it for you, was enough to put me on the verge of tears, and I am a heartless, heartless bastard. The story is so tenderly done, with the exchanged between her and her Nana, that by the time you have guided Sofi through the entire ordeal, you can’t help but be genuinely invested in both her physical and emotional well-being and be proud of how much she’s grown up throughout the game.
Anyways, that’s all great, but I left out what is (at least for me) the best part of this game. THE ART. Oh my god, the art. I know I talked a bit about it already, but it’s storybook surrealism like I’ve never seen in a game. The whole thing takes place in lavishly illustrated surreal dreamscapes whose graphics are, I’m relatively sure, entirely planar. The texture work is amazing- everything has a watercolor, cutout paper, classic storybook feel. It brings me glee and inspires me to do so much with 3D art. I’ll just let you drool over screenshots, so I don’t sound like a *total* fangirl.
Tell me that isn’t the most gorgeous thing you’ve seen a good long while!
If you want to read another review of this, go check out Trevin’s blog. I know it’s a little hard to see him all the way down there on the scoreboard, but trust me, the review is good.
I just caved in and reinstalled StumbleUpon on my computer, after swearing up and down to myself that I would only use it for good (I give this commitment about twelve hours max, but that’s neither here nor there).
What is here and there is that somebody found this nifty little Flash game called TwinSpin II for me.
The basic goal is to guide a spinning two-tone dumbbell-shaped character through levels to pop little balloons, some of which are color-coded so that only one end of the character can burst it. It’s a very simple concept (although pretty original considering), but GlobZ has done a very impressive job with it. The movement is fluid and intuitive, and the puzzles get pretty fiendish pretty fast, doing things like covering up paths to make you rely on timing and the occassional open space or doing the same to your balloons. Unfortunately these techniques sometimes venture into Lucksville, but that’s to be expected with just about any game (critial hits, anyone?). The only other issue I found during my little foray were some collision issues with the walls, which I’m perfectly okay with because they let me cheat when I’m stuck under the aforementioned ceilings.
I think the basic point I was trying to get to was that for a Flash game it’s very solid, fun, and kinda cute. Well worth, oh say, five minutes. Go play it.
During my first quarter finals at college, one of my professors gave our class some of the best work-balance advice I’ve ever heard: Do not ever start or end any relationships during finals.
I have a new one to add: Do not ever download Plants vs. Zombies during finals, either. I downloaded it just before our last week, and none of my finals got finished (or particularly paid attention to) until Adventure mode was done.
Now normally I like to rave about games with some interesting innovation or something a little different to gameplay. The main thing that stands out to me about PvZ, however, is that it’s bloody effing fun. Like, when my trial ended I spent half an hour pacing back and forth and slapping my veins anxiously waiting for our wheezing internet to download the full version-level fun.
Coming from the queen of ADD this is saying something.
Being that it’s the first time I’ve ever really sat down and played one it’s hard for me to compare it to what normally sucks. But I think a lot of it lies firstly in the appeal of the characters and secondly in the enormous variety of stuff you can do. Your average round consists of choosing your plants based on the zombies that are going to be attack during that level, and then planting them in a strategic manner to pop the heads off of brain-nommers. However, the sheer number of plants to be acquired and used, combined with the variety of terrains you have to fight on and the range of zombies, makes coming up with a good general set-up nearly impossible. I had one that I stuck with for a pretty decent number of levels, and then they decided to attack at night instead. So I found a way around it, and they threw effing smasher-zombies at me that ruined the entire thing. The way the game forces you to constantly tweak and refine your strategies is grand fun and keeps things interesting. The pacing is also very well done, both within each level and from one level to the next, keeping a good mix of ass-kicking contentment and outright panic.
That being said, the game doesn’t have a lot of replay value. It’s not at all deep and very much a casual game, so there’s not a lot of investment to be put into it. Some of the minigames and puzzle mode games are fun, but after one run through adventure mode I was pretty burnt out on the standard choose-plants-and-fight levels. I’m sure they’ll regain appeal at some point, but maybe it’s all for the best. I finished my finals, after all.
Anyways, the bottom line here is that the game is like cocaine mixed with ecstacy mixed with… other highly addictive stuff (ice cream? Summer vacation?). Well worth the ten bucks and many hours of sleep you will give up in exchange.